NIC Naitanui is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a second knee reconstruction, fuelling hopes the West Coast ruckman will be able to return by round 15 next season.
Naitanui missed more than 18 months of action after tearing the ACL in his left knee in round 22, 2016.
The 28-year-old was dealt another huge blow in round 17 last season when he tore the ACL in his right knee.
Some experts predicted Naitanui would need another 18-month time frame to recover from the second knee reconstruction.
But his recovery this time around is going much smoother.
The 201cm Naitanui has recently progressed to kicking footballs and straight- line speed work at training.
“Nic is tracking really well,” West Coast football operations manager Craig Vozzo said.
“It’s probably ahead of where he would’ve been at the same time when the other knee was reconstructed.
“We’ve had less setbacks in this rehab phase compared to last time.
“He’s in a happy space doing a bit more on ground, he just started that this week, which was really encouraging for him and for us.
“So, all being well, we’ll see more and more of him integrating into training in the new year.”
Spearhead Josh Kennedy is recovering well from a left shoulder operation.
“JK’s probably ahead of where we expected him to be with his shoulder rehab post-surgery,” Vozzo said.
“He’s doing a lot of aerobic work now (and) building up slowly in the gym.
“We’re confident that come late January he should be joining in the main group in a lot of stuff, and the skills stuff after Christmas.”
Tom Barrass had been struggling to overcome a foot injury but has improved rapidly in recent weeks.
His fellow defender Liam Duggan (knee surgery) is on the verge of returning to full training.
Jamie Cripps (hamstring) and Elliot Yeo (toe) are further behind but are expected to ramp up their loads in January.
© AAP 2018